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The 10 Most Over-Used Words on School Websites [Updated With New Examples]
Mia Major

High bounce rates can leave us thinking: Was it something I said? And quite possibly, it could be.

When families are searching for an independent school, they're looking for the best place to invest in their child's future, education — and of course, their money. Think about your school's value proposition. If every other school can easily use the exact same works or terms you're using — like "close-knit community" — how is that going to set you apart?

It goes without saying that the following 10 words and phrases aren't necessarily bad, or should be dropped altogether. Rather, we're urging you to get those creative gears turning to think of your school-specific synonyms to these broad and general terms.

Think of each word this way: show; don't tell.

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1. Tight-Knit Community

What it means: As a small independent school, students and teachers work closely with one another, support one another and learn from one another.

Why you shouldn't use it: Even the biggest independent schools boast a close-knit community between faculty and students, athletes and academic all-stars, seniors and freshmen.

What you could say instead: Consider the most unique aspect of your close-knit community. Is it your faculty-to-student ratio? Is it the fact that all students must participate in arts and athletics beyond academics? Is it an annual event that brings students together as one?

In this example from St. Mark's School in Southborough, MA, rather than saying "tight-knit community," the school shares the valuable outcomes of their deliberate, small, community.

Example: St. Mark's School

Another good example comes from Hotchkiss School, whose "A Commitment to Each Other" statement makes a powerful impact when accompanied by this candid photo.

Hotchkiss Community

2. Hands-On Learning

What it means: Your school offers plenty of opportunities beyond lectures and textbooks to get the experience they need to succeed.

Why you shouldn't use it: Hands-on learning is no longer a differentiator, but a standard.

What you could say instead: What kind of experiences do you offer that are hands-on? This example from Seacrest Country Day in Florida is the antithesis of the standard connotation of "hands on learning." The active, eye-catching photo exemplifies an experience that is clearly unique to the school.

Better than

3. Academic Excellence

What it means: Your school offers a wide-range of academic programs that strive to challenge and prepare students for success in school and beyond.

Why you shouldn't use it: Academic excellence and rigor are buzzwords in the realm of independent school marketing. Let's be real: families won't invest in an education that's anything short of excellent or rigorous.

What you could say instead: In most cases, parents and prospective families care most about how your academics help students evolve. One of the best ways to do this is with indisputable, hard facts and success rates. Infographics, like this one from Presentation High School's homepage, addresses important stats prospective families care about.

Pres at a Glance infographic

Aside from an infographic, a college matriculation slider or graphic is an easy way to prove the outcome of your school's academics.

Asheville College Matriculation

4. Outstanding Student / Faculty Relationships

What it means: The relationships formed between students and faculty will inspire students to learn.

Why you shouldn't use it: Because really: what is an education without student and faculty relationships?

What you could say instead: Focus on getting quotes that talk about the way student and faculty examples change and shape the experience at your school. Because relationships are about people, words crafted by your marketing team just won't have the same impact as something real and authentic — like this series of quotes on Landon School's homepage.


5. Athletic Excellence

What it means: Your athletics are top-notch.

Why you shouldn't use it: Prospects who are looking to join a stellar athletics program may have already been recruited to your school, or are looking for proof that they're joining a winning team.

What you could say instead: It's okay to boast. We give big kudos to Baylor School here, who tells it like it is.

Baylor Wins

6. Unique

What it means: The term "unique" literally means to be the only one of its kind or unlike anything else.

Why you shouldn't use it: Using the word "unique" is a great way to say that you're not unique. Every school is unique in its own way. Using a word like this on your site is a great way to bore a website visitor really fast.

What you could say instead: Think about what is one special tradition your school has that no other one does? What is something that can be said about your school that no one else can claim? Focus on your history, location, faculty, and offerings. For example, TASIS Switzerland focuses on how their school "pioneered" academic travel. If their target market is students who want to travel and learn, they've hit the nail on the head.

TASIS Explores

And of course, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy, is the epitome of avoiding the cliche, and focusing on what makes their campus and academics special to them. Scope out their entire site, and you'll never find a word like "unique," but rather hundreds of photos and video that let the user find out for themselves.

HPA - Sense of Place

7. Beautiful Campus

What it means: Your campus is a desirable place to visit, attend or live.

Why you shouldn't use it: Isn't every other school boasting about their beautiful campus? Whether it's by the beach, nestled in the hills of California or tucked in between city skyscrapers, every school's campus is special and beautiful in its own way.

What you could say instead: Anytime you have the opportunity to turn a noun like "beautiful campus" into a sentence that includes a verb like "exploring," you've immediately improved your marketing. Add in some photos of students being a part of that campus? You win. This example from Winchester Thurston School is a home run.

Exploring the Environment

8. Diverse

What it means: Your campus offers a wide variety of programs and opportunities and/or brings together many faculty and students from different cultural backgrounds.

Why you shouldn't use it: It's boring and meaningless unless supported by statistics or graphics. Plus, so much can be diverse — your students, your faculty, your programs. What is diverse? Why? And what is the value it offers?

What you could say instead: Rather than saying your school community is diverse, prove it. The Episcopal School of Dallas addresses diversity head on with the slogan "Unity, not Uniformity," making it easy to infer that even if you're different, you are part of the community. Now that's quite the impact.

ESD Dallas - Diverse

Infographics, videos, and photo slideshows are also excellent ways to showcase the diversity of your campus community, opportunities and traditions. And remember, sometimes subtlety is best — like in this example from Choate.

Choate Diversity

9. Innovative

What it means: Your community features new and original methods of thinking and learning.

Why you shouldn't use it: Sure you think your academics are innovative, but compared to whom? A term like "innovative" is completely subjective, and should be saved for truly forward-thinking acts. (Hint: a 1:1 program isn't innovative anymore.)

What you could say instead: What sets you apart? Every school is innovative in its own way. Lausanne highlights their "joyful and challenging" learning process that "creates wonder." Brilliant!

Lausanne - Creating Wonder

10. Nurturing

What it means: Your school fosters growth in all areas, both personally and intellectually.

Why you shouldn't use it: The point of an education is to nurture. Think about how you nurture students to thrive; rather than the act itself.

What you could say instead: Consider your advisor/advisee relationships; a series of classes that are available at your school; your faculty to student ratio; and all other pieces of the equation of student development. Most importantly it should answer the question: what is the outcome of the nurturing programs at your school? Nardin Academy's "Ignite Curiosity" slogan hints that their learning environment inspires new ideas, thoughts, and desires.

Ignite Curiosity

The Website Redesign Playbook

Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.

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